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Several Quill clients were successful at the recent Investment Week 25th Investment Company of the Year Awards 2023, in association with the AIC, at an awards ceremony in London.

The awards recognise managers which have delivered consistently for investors across a variety of sectors.

The shortlists for the awards were constructed using scores provided by the AIC, using Morningstar data. Investment companies needed a three-year track record to 30 June 2023 to be shortlisted and a market cap of £50m or above.

Within each sector, companies had their cumulative fair NAV returns calculated over three discrete periods in sterling terms. Returns over the 12 months to 30 June 2023 were given a 40% weighting, the 12 months to 30 June 2022 were given a 30% weighting, while the 12 months to 30 June 2021 accounted for 20% of the overall score. The final 10% weight was given to the full cumulative NAV return over the three years to 30 June 2023.   

These scores were added to give a single score out of 100, the highest of which were considered for the shortlists.  Winners were then chosen by a judging panel comprised of IFAs, wealth managers, fund managers and analysts considering qualitative as well as quantitative factors.   

Odyssean Investment Trust (OIT) won the UK Smaller Companies award.  Alliance Trust (ATST) was the Global award winner and AVI Global Trust (AGT) was highly commended in the Global award category.

Investment Week said: “Against a challenging backdrop, our judges this year were keen to highlight consistent performers who have managed to navigate turbulent market conditions. Discount management was a major focus this year, as well as effective communications with investors and use of the investment company structure.”

Photo: Gregor Stewart, Chairman of Alliance Trust, and Craig Baker, WTW’s Chief Investment Officer, receiving the award

A job in PR: I’ve been working at Quill PR for just over six months as an Account Executive – not where I would have imagined myself a year ago. I finished a degree in Fashion Branding and Communication at Birmingham City University in July 2022, the tail-end of the pandemic, when the continuous lockdowns and uncertainty left me searching for inspiration as to what to do in my post-graduate life. My course had touched on the topic of PR, and even though it was in the context of fashion, I knew a career in PR could be an interesting one; so, when the opportunity to work at Quill came up, I took it.

Not only am I new to the corporate world, but also to financial services, so I’ve to learn about the inner workings of a successful business, and about a completely new sector. My anxieties about this have eased over time as I’m surrounded by a team of experts always open to answering my basic questions and to guide me in the right direction. My first week in the office coincided with the announcement of Liz Truss’ Autumn mini budget- showing me just how quickly the markets can become volatile, seeing the full impact of macro events on the economy (something I hadn’t thought much about before).

What am I enjoying – or not enjoying?

Meeting and getting to know the clients and journalists that we work with has been a positive experience; all I’ve met so far have been lovely, and very welcoming (and patient while I’m still learning the ropes!). I’ve also enjoyed attending client events, my favourite being an F1 arcade session! It was a great opportunity to meet journalists and fund managers in a more relaxed environment.

However, meeting lots of new people in a relatively short time frame has been quite overwhelming for me; as someone who is naturally reserved, I’ve found it difficult to talk to new people. While it’s been a struggle with my confidence, I know that it will be something that I will get comfortable with over time.

Is it what I expected?

Honestly, I didn’t know all the role would entail, aside from fulfilling the admin, social media, and reporting duties. It’s been great to handle things like press enquiries and be trusted to carry them out for clients and having the support of the team if I need help or reassurance. From the start I’ve been able to be hands on, going to meetings to observe and learn about our clients and building relationships with journalists.

Is financial services fun?

Yes! I’ve never doubted that it was before I joined, but I was always slightly daunted by how vast and complicated the industry seemed. Even though there are still a lot of things that I haven’t got my head around, I feel more confident with my finance knowledge. I’m looking to doing a basic training course on financial services so I can better my understanding, and make my job somewhat easier!

What have I learnt?

You need to be organised in PR, as you can get requests in at any time, from the team, journalists, or clients. You need to be flexible when prioritising workload depending on incoming deadlines; when a client wanted a last-minute report for the following day, being flexible with my priorities at that time was crucial.

Write everything down; so many things can be happening at once, you can’t remember everything! So, key notes when meeting with a journalist, taking minutes during a client meeting, and any information about clients.

To really engage with clients and journalists – remembering a favourite restaurant when arranging a meeting and information about themselves; it’s all about building relationships and trust.

I’m excited to continue my career with Quill – the continued support from the team has helped my transition into a job in PR to be a very comfortable and secure one.

The march of AI or artificial intelligence is truly upon us, highlighted by the fact that as I type, my keyboard is predicting what I am going to type next, and is often correct. Gosh, so predictable!

At an extremely interesting client presentation recently, fund managers from the Sanlam Artificial Intelligence fund explained to us that “Things that people called ‘pipe dreams’ when the fund was launched in 2017 are now happening. The changes have been utterly extraordinary. What was impossible is now possible.”

A fascinating timeline showed how algorithms have achieved superhuman levels in chess and other games such as Go in a very short space of time, and how AI platforms were teaching themsleves to walk, create their own languages and understand human vocabulary at an increasingly exponential speed.

There’s no doubt that changes brought by AI within healthcare, agriculture, transport (to mention a very few) are literally saving lives and may help to save the planet.

However, the very night after this event, I was reminded about the limits of AI in the arena of customer service. One area where chatbots and robots haven’t quite nailed the human touch yet.

My teenage daughter and her friend had arrived at a hotel in Portugal late at night, to be told that their room booking had been cancelled by the online booking service they’d used months earlier. This was human error (or greed) on the bookings service part, no robots at fault there. However, her booking was confirmed so a bit of a disagreement ensued but as the hotel was now full, she needed to contact them as they now had nowhere to stay. So then she (in Portugal) and I (in London) tried to communicate with the bookings company to get the issue sorted. We both experienced the same fate…

The phonecall was answered clearly by a robot – who requested the confirmation number. That was easily done. There then ensued some fake typing noise, I suppose to suggest that someone was actually typing into a computer to check something out, before a robotic voice informed that they had been waiting too long for our information and would have to end the phone call. At gone midnight – and having gone through this process twice I was definitely not impressed. The situation was not resolved until the following day – and took human intervention via twitter direct messaging to sort out.

While AI is clearly the future, companies should beware that they are not jeopardising their hard-won reputations for short-term cost savings. The message is that the nuances of real life problems often need to be resolved by humans; and human customers are not happy when they have to battle with companies’ attempts to deflect issues to our robot brethren, before they are quite ready.  

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Quill PR is pleased to announce a new member to the team, with the hire of Stephanie Spicer as Head of Content.

Steph has worked as a personal finance and investment journalist for over 20 years. She has held senior editorial positions on various industry titles. These include Money Management, Investment Week, Cover and Corporate Adviser. Most recently she has freelanced for What Investment Magazine and What Investment online. She has also acted as a PR consultant for the best part of two decades.

Sam Emery, Quill Managing Director, said: “We are delighted to have Steph on board. Her role is to continue developing the content writing service Quill offers to clients. As our client base grows so does the need to fulfil clients’ requirements for quality copy and get clients’ messages out to their relevant audiences.”